Last year, Bruce Mahler celebrated Rosh Hashanah with Chabad of Thousand Oaks as they were supporting him through the loss of his wife, Sharon, who had died of pulmonary fibrosis two months earlier.
Rosh Hashanah is the “head of the year,” also known as the Jewish New Year, and the holiday is a time of joy and reflection that is celebrated with apples and honey in hope of a sweet year to come.
“For me, last year was bittersweet,” he said.
Mahler said he’s looking forward to marking a hopeful Rosh Hashanah this year because the Chabad is moving from its longtime home in a shopping center on Avenida de Los Arboles to a new location on El Monte Drive.
Chabad announced its plan to move before Mahler’s wife died, and the late mother of two was excited that a permanent location would provide an anchor for the observant Jewish community in the Conejo Valley.
“This is a new year and a new start,” Bruce Mahler said.
When the sun sets on Sunday, Rabbi Chaim Bryski will lead a candle-lit prayer service at 1515 El Monte Drive before blowing the shofar, a ceremonial trumpet fashioned from a ram’s horn to kick off the two-day observance.
Once they return home, families will enjoy a traditional meal including fish. The fish head is put on the table to represent God’s always-open eye. Apples are served with honey, as are carrots because the word “carrot” in Yiddish means abundance and more blessings.
The holiday also includes the ritual of tashlich, during which individuals read prayers and shake out their clothes over a body of water to represent the casting away of sins.
Rosh Hashanah begins the High Holy Days, a period of 10 days that starts with the first night of Rosh Hashanah and ends on Yom Kippur.
Bryski said it’s like a trial that opens on the first day of the new year. The intervening days are a time to ask for forgiveness from God and from those you’ve hurt before the verdict is entered and the next year’s blessings are sealed on Yom Kippur.
Bryski said it is also a time to give thanks to God for the blessings in your life and to extend help to others.
“When God sees his children blessing each other with joy in their hearts, it brings about their own good year,” he said.
Cathy Cole is a founding member of Chabad who has known Bryski since he moved to Thousand Oaks nearly 20 years ago.
The 65-year-old nurse practitioner said the nearly two decades the Chabad has spent in a rented space reminded her of the Jewish people living in the desert for 40 years.
“We’ve wandered around and now we’ve come into the land of milk and honey,” Cole said. “It’s timely.”
Though she never lived to see it opened, Sharon Mahler will be remembered at the new synagogue. Cole said the Chabad is planning to name a children’s playground in her honor.
“She said she didn’t want to be forgotten,” Cole said. “We won’t let her be forgotten.”
Chabad of Thousand Oaks will meet for Rosh Hashanah at 6:45 on Sun., Sept. 9.
The public grand opening of the new synagogue is planned for early 2019.